THACKERVILLE, OK – It has been since April 2017 since Carrie Leo had had her animals unlawfully taken by a colleague who was, in turn, encouraged by an USDA animal care inspector to take the animals from her facility in New York State with the intent of never returning them. Running a small wildlife and exotic animal center in western New York, Leo boarded some of her animals with two different facilities while she recovered from surgery and planned a move out of state.
Unfortunately, the temporary keepers of the animals would not return the animals as agreed upon which then led to Leo filing suit against both facilities – one suit filed in Oklahoma in Garvin County (CJ-2019-00089) and another filed in both New York against the same facility (#2017-1668 / #20-01223) and Texas (#2020-DCL-01028 / #13-21-00020-CV).
The Texas facility, Fragile Planet Wildlife Center, run by Tyler Thomas and Nicholas Stacey, has an extensive history of taking animals from their owners under the guise of breeding loans and boarding contracts. This started with their inappropriate association with select staff members at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation when their center was in Jefferson County, New York.
The Director of the Special Licenses Unit wrote a secret statement for Thomas & Stacey after being contacted by the duo the day they were first served by Leo on November 7, 207. The statement was then circulated around to exotic animal owners and wildlife rehabilitators to ruin Leo’s good reputation. Despite Leo's repeated requests, she has been consistently denied a copy by the NYSDEC.
If being repeatedly denied a copy of a statement about her which had been written by a public official and shown to anyone else wasn't one of the worst happenings in Leo's situation, it had been brought to her attention that the contents of the statement was also circulated among the staff of the courts, including the judges, in which Leo had filed cases. This caused a sharp shift in many of the cases in detriment of Leo as the judges allowed themselves to be influenced by a derogatory and unilateral statement without disclosing the information to Leo as required by court rules. As a result, Leo was prejudiced in her cases since the judges believed the false accusations and information in the statement while making it impossible for her to defend herself against false accusations.
As the months went on, Leo gradually learned about the contents of the statement through communication with those who had read it. She learned she was accused of numerous heinous and false violations of law – some even of a felonious nature. Leo was even accused of cruelty against animals which had clearly been perpetrated by another person at a facility two hours away from Leo’s and who was convicted of the charge. Pictures of the facility of the convictee, including photographs of dead and dying animals pulled from the woman’s basement at her residence by the SPCA were used to misrepresent the appearance of Leo’s facility in Wayne County, NY. These false impressions and accusations were then circulated by way of this statement, signed the Director of DEC’s Special Licenses Unit - a trusted authority figure using his position in a covert manner to deprive another person of her rights.
Most recently, Thomas teamed up with an animal rights extremist, published false accusations and iminitial-petition-garvin-county.pdfages about Leo both on social media and via an online petition making the case that Leo’s other group of animals at an Oklahoma zoo should not be returned to her based on the false accusations. This caused Leo’s case (#CJ-2019-00089) in Garvin County District Court in Oklahoma to become stalemated after the judge changed her treatment of Leo completely after believing such unsupported and wild accusations. To date, the judge has yet to disclose the communication she received which prompted her to block Leo’s efforts to regain possession of animals which clearly belong to her. Such failure to communicate with and disclose external communication by a judge is a severe violation of the rules of court and is an assault on a litigant’s right to due process and equal treatment.
Leo not only acquired an order from the Garvin County Court in Oklahoma court prior to the interference of outsiders; but she had al so acquired an order from the New York State Supreme Court of Jefferson County (Leo v Thomas, Index #2017-1668) granting her right of repossession of her animals in the care of Thomas and Stacey – who failed to inform Leo when they were moving out of state. They then took her animals across multiple state lines down to Texas, without authorization, in violation of the state’s environmental conservation and agriculture laws as well as in violation of a plethora of federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act. The animals belonging to Thomas and Stacey and the ones belong to Leo were illegally exported from New York State, possessed, and transported by the pair and just as illegally imported into the state of Texas, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
At that time, the USDA stepped in and assisted Thomas and Stacey in secreting the animals around the state of Texas as they moved from place to place trying to stay ahead of the law. USDA Animal Care Inspector, Andrea D’Ambrosio, was able to convince a Henderson, TX veterinarian, Lori Cavitt, to falsify a five-sentence letter alleging her having done a necropsy on one of the animals belonging to Leo and being secreted away by Thomas, Stacey and the USDA.
Defense counsel in the New York case against Thomas and Stacey, Michael F. Young of Lowville, New York, knowing the letter was falsified and without authenticating the document was able to give the judge (presumably with a little outside pressure from Young’s cohorts) a motion for dismissal upon summary judgment which was then erroneously granted by the court. Young even altered the letter before resubmitting it with his motion for summary judgment after Leo, as plaintiff in the action, exposed contradicting details in the letter with other evidence which had already been filed in the case. Young also fabricated other “evidence” to supplement the letter written by Cavitt.
Throughout the entire ordeal, the courts were clearly led around by the NYSDEC and USDA who were contacting the courts, in one way or another, to continue the circulation of the DEC statement consisting of false accusations against Leo. It was during this time when Leo took a closer look at the USDA’s role in the collaboration preventing the return of her animals. Having then researched the agency’s past offenses against exotic animal owners and its catering to animal rights extremists, Leo uncovered a scheme in which the authorities, headed by the USDA, and consisting of state environmental conservation agencies, sometimes SPCA groups and animal rights groups, such as PETA, ALDF, etc., sell unlawfully seized animals and/or transfer them to their own sanctuaries camouflaged as members of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. These sanctuaries get paid handsomely to care for the animals and often end up profiting in the millions of dollars. If it’s not money used for compensation, the authorities reward their assistants in the scheme with animals taken from those excluded from agency program activities, like Leo.
A thorough look into Thomas’ and Stacey’s business activities reveals the “donation” by the NYS DEC of endangered species, such as lemurs, to their facility in Alexandria Bay, NY, after having been taken from the animals’ owner. It wasn’t surprising to hear Thomas make unfounded accusations against the owner on social media posts while making mention of a total of three lemurs, a picture of two of them in a transport carrier and the further mention that the third will be sold. Given lemurs can be sold for up to $5000, that would mean the NYSDEC, who took it upon themselves to donate another person’s beloved animals to individuals like Thomas and Stacey, reimbursed their business up to $5000 to discredit another exotic animal owner without having witnessed anything which became part of the accusations Thomas issued on social media.
Leo can directly attest to both USDA’s and DEC’s tactics in manipulating people, facts, and circumstances to falsely prosecute someone since the same happened to her. When she asked for her animals back initially from both the Texas and Oklahoma facilities, she was licensed. However, with the USDA and NYSDEC making multiple covert efforts and working with the defense attorneys to delay the cases to pass new regulations and laws forbidding the ownership and possession of exotic animals, her licenses were not renewed. The agencies also violate the law and Leo’s rights by failing to recognize she doesn’t need a license for mere possession since the AWA allows for a private collection of animals so long as no regulated activity, such as exhibition, takes place.
Thomas and animal rights extremists sent the petition trying to stop Leo’s repossession of her animals by the use of false accusations to the USDA who then became lenient with Jeff and Lauren Lowe, failing to indict them, withdrawing the government’s demand for costs of a federal case in the Eastern District of Oklahoma and dismissing the action altogether after having them sign an abandonment acknowledgment allowing the USDA to take the animals at the zoo into its custody – although Leo’s animals weren’t the property of Lowes in which they could relinquish any interest.
Of course, the USDA unlawfully seized those animals as well knowing full well they were those belonging to Leo and even admitting which ones it had in its custody in a pleading while the case in the Eastern District of Oklahoma was still pending. The court unfortunately denied Leo’s Motion to Intervene which caused an appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. An emergency motion filed by Leo on December 29, 2021 was not processed until a month later after the federal government filed a Notice of Dismissal and closed the case. The motion was then declared as “moot” by the appellate court.
Such legal wrestling is common with state and federal agencies when intending to seize property without following proper procedure. Such happens frequently since there is literally no way to hold accountable those agencies violating the law. Instead, they exist as monarchs cherry-picking rules and regulations to follow and expecting certain licensees and individuals to follow them while others, like Thomas, seem to have complete impunity.
Such practices by the government nullify the AWA and the goals it was intended to have. “People now know they can steal animals so long as the government is in on it and gets their cut. The AWA was initially instituted to address the theft of animals aiming at its elimination. Now, though, it’s almost as if the government had the intention of carving away the competition by levying restrictions on the populace, except those who help the government in their unlawful endeavors, in obtaining a monopoly over wild and privately-owned exotic and animals.” Leo states.
Leo has still yet to repossess her animals while she watches as they waste away under substandard care provided by the facilities working with the authorities. Without any evidence to support the false accusations of the government and their assistants, like Thomas and Stacey, one would think such an egregious violation of due process would be the furthest thing from happening. In this day and age, think again.